“We get in the studio and are very open minded when making music – if it sounds good, go for it; don’t be defined by a genre but instead focus on what is good about a track.”
This beautiful, soundbitadble pearl of wisdom, despite perhaps being a little prompted by some insistent journalistic pigeonholing, could well be Chase & Status’ mantra. Composed of Manchester student friends Saul Milton and Will Kennard, Chase & Status have just finished touring the British Isles with a form of dance music as conceptually fluid as it is forceful. With fistfuls of awards, platinum certificates and production credits for Snoop Dogg and Rihanna, it seems to be going over okay.
This success was by no means always a done deal. Forming in the mid nineties and equipped with little more than a love of drum & bass and a front living room, the circumstances of their artistic birth could belong to innumerable humanity students with too few contact hours. Yet Milton and Kennard are two of a very select bunch who have managed to convert this feverish enthusiasm into feverish music and drum & bass crossover success unprecedented beyond Pendulum. Whether this came from an unrivalled technical understanding of their art, the combination of an untouchable sense of humour and rage or a ear pressed firmly to the ground, it happened with ‘More Than Alot’. And then again with ‘No More Idols’. The challenge now is to keep it going.
In a genre fired by ardent purists, the kind of purists who won them the BBC 1Xtra Drum & Bass single award for ‘In Love’, this is no mean feat. Although now well into its third decade and boasting Mercury Award winning artist Roni Size and late night Radio One regulars and mainstream flirters like Andy C, drum & bass is a musical movement that inspires fierce loyalty from a still partly obscured underground. The ability to satiate the die hard electronic maniacs whilst producing a commercially viable brand is one lost on bass plunderers like Skrillex, who’s fall from critical grace was even swifter than his ascent. Milton is forthright about the challenge: if you build it, and you believe it, they will come. Their Glastonbury slot last summer pays testament to this notion.
“We feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to play some real career defining slots, like the headline slot on the Other Stage at Glastonbury this summer. It is something childhood dreams are made of! It feels good to be able to play at festivals which are very rock orientated – as you mention, we played the main stage at Download Festival last year, and the main stage at Reading Festival this year, and it’s great to see crowds reacting well to the show, and going crazy, despite us being worried that they wouldn’t get the music. At the end of the day, people go to festivals to hear great music, have a good time, and also to discover new music – I think people are much more open minded towards music now compared to even a few years ago, and people aren’t so concerned with genres.”
Whether it is this acceptance that saw Chase & Status avoid the unbalanced crowd spread of Glastonbury’s 2000 Basement Jaxx/Bowie clash or simply the irresistible balls out nature of their music, Milton argues such acceptance it is not just a British phenomenon. Despite little Billboard luck, last year saw the duo successfully grace American shores for a second time.
“We’ve played some really big US festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival, both DJ’ing and with our live show, and we’ve always had a really great reception and had a really good time. The US dance music scene undoubtedly has it’s differences from the UK scene but that’s the case for any genre really. I do think it’s good that dance music is becoming much more accepted over in the US though.”
This good time is not just one felt from the position of centre stage, lasers and adored brain-children crashing over their shoulders, but throughout the crowd. Last year Timeout enthused over the eclectic breadth of a Hiro Ballroom set, noting with glee how the roof was blown and kept off by a mix of grime, reggae and jungle. Despite the general convergence of Anglo/American electronic tastes, the successful exportation of genres of music last heard in a Croydon dockyard cannot be overlooked. Although this must be primarily attributed to musical brilliance, Chase & Status’ ability to collaborate and produce with artists already substantiated in the American market goes a long way in explaining their pan-Atlantic palatability. The move away from the eminently British feel of No More Idols, a record featuring Plan B and Dizzie Rascal, with ‘Brand New Machine’, was a conscious one.
“I think it’s probably more just that we’d spent a lot of time travelling, to the US, Australia, Europe – all over really. We wanted that to come across with this album, whereas No More Idols we focussed on it feeling very British, we wanted to broaden it out a bit with Brand New Machine.
This breadth is not only seen on a roster including American giants Pusha T and Major Laser, but in the innumerable musical styles conquered under their names. From the opening jilted-stepped darkness of ‘Gun Metal Grey’ to the house infused ‘Deeper Devotion’, ‘Brand New Machine’ is a flex of Milton and Kennard’s substantial musical muscles. It pays testament to the pair that this not only avoids sounding self-indulgent to British ears, but translates into Hindi. “It was amazing actually. We were treated very well and the Indian crowds were really up for it and seemed to have a great time.”
As fun as it is to crush yourself into a Chase & Status mosh pit and internally lose your shit with a pair of big head phones, their back catalogue and a walk to the shops, the enthusiasm that radiates from the pair suggests the best position is the one on stage. Although this is a dream beyond most of us, Milton is candid about how it feels to stand in the heart of your creation and waves of adoration.
“It’s pretty special….and addictive. It makes you want to do it more. Headlining the Other Stage at Glastonbury was definitely a stand out moment, as was playing to a sold out crowd at London’s O2 earlier this month. London is our hometown so we had all of our friends and family there to watch. It was a pretty amazing moment.”
With the decks locked away and MC Rage put into storage for the season, fans will either have to wait to share in this magic or head over to the duo’s record label MTA- an emerging franchise boasting the likes of Moko, Louis M^ttrs, Knytro, Josh Butler, Kove and Moodygood. If this is still not enough, dust off your record player, turn up the bass and jump around like a twat to ‘End Credits’. Just don’t blush. Music this joyous deserves our clenched fisted, shame free adoration.